The family of J’Mauri Bumpass, a Durham 18-year-old alleged to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot during a traffic stop, are continuing to fight for answers.
The lawyer representing the Bumpass family filed a motion last week in Durham County Superior Court, requesting that the Durham County Sheriff’s Office be ordered to produce the entire investigative file related to the fatal shooting.
The slain teen’s mother, Hermena Bumpass, just wants to know what happened to her son, according to a motion filed late last week by attorney Allyn Sharp. The family wants to know: If Bumpass’s death was a suicide, why is it part of an ongoing investigation?
The 16-page court affidavit was filed on Friday, eight days after Hermena Bumpass accused Deputy Anthony Sharp—who has since been promoted to corporal—of inventing “material facts” about the teen’s death, “and that he “possibly tampered with his in-car camera system.”
The lawsuit demands the department release the testing, inspection, and complete in-car recording system—including all wiring from the patrol car driven by Deputy Sharp, along with the gun and bullets found in the Chevrolet Impala J’Mauri Bumpass was driving the night he died.
The Sheriff’s Office “appears to have presumed the veracity” of Deputy Anthony Sharp’s account, and that the sheriff’s investigation of the fatal shooting “appears to have only sought and to continue to seek support for that account,” the motion states.
The court motion details evidence contradicting the police officer’s account of what happened during the traffic stop.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, at about 12:39 a.m. on December 15, Deputy Sharp reported J’Mauri Bumpass pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head following a traffic stop on Meriwether Drive for what appeared to be fictitious tags.
Deputy Sharp claims as he was getting out of his patrol car, he heard a gunshot and saw the driver’s side window of Bumpass’s sedan shatter. The car then rolled forward about 50 yards before it crashed into a light pole and overturned on its side, according to the incident report.
Deputy Sharp waited for backup before he approached the overturned car, where he claimed he found Bumpass unresponsive with a 9mm Glock between his legs, and that the weapon was “expelling smoke as if it had just been fired.”
But the June 18 motion states that the deputy and trainee waited five minutes for backup to arrive before approaching the overturned Impala. It also cites a report from EMS paramedics who were told by the deputies that “a gunshot was heard from the vehicle after it crashed.”
A firearms expert noted that a semi-automatic Glock handgun fired once would produce “only a wisp [of smoke] and probably for no longer than five seconds,” contradicting Sharp’s version of events.
Additionally, gunshot residue swabs taken from Deputy Sharp and trainee Robert Osborne were “inconclusive as two whether either had fired a gun.” Bumpass’s attorney adds that recordings the family has received show Osborne leaving the scene for a time, “apparently before the gunshot residue swab of his hands was done,” while “gunshot residue swabs from J’Mauri’s hands have not been tested.”
The dash camera in Deputy Sharp’s patrol car was reportedly not operating at the time of the crash and fatal shooting. Further, camera wiring may have been tampered with, Bumpass’s attorney claims, describing the electrical tape covering the wires as “unusual” and “very problematic.”
Keischa Lovelace, Birkhead’s legal adviser, claimed the electrical tape had been used to cover the wiring during a repair by Piedmont Communications Company, which the company later denied.
The Bumpass family also speculated that the car’s camera system may have been recorded over, which the Sheriff’s Office denies.
During the June 3 hearing Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ordered the Sheriff’s Office to produce “all camera recordings from Deputy Sharp’s vehicle and all other responding vehicles, but the department claimed, “there are no such recordings to produce.”
In the court motion the Bumpass family attorney pointed out that Deputy Sharp and other deputies’ actions violate the department’s own written policies, which require the use of dash cams for all traffic stops, pursuits, and emergency responses, and the uploading of all recordings before a deputy’s shift ends.
The orders also prohibit sheriff’s employees from attempting “to erase, alter or tamper” with the dash camera system or recordings.
Hermena Bumpass says her son was not depressed, nor did he have a history of depression. The family says the teen was engaged with his family and community and had plans to attend Durham Tech, earn an associate’s degree, and transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill. He did not have a criminal record. After graduating from Hillside High in 2018, he was working at FedEx and had applied for financial aid to help pay for college, his family says.
Down to the very last minute, his was not a life on track for suicide, his family believes.
Just after midnight on the night of his death, Bumpass had texted his 21-year-old sister. Fourteen minutes later, he texted her that he was at “McDonald’s lookin for sumn to do.”
She asked for a ride home from StarBar in Raleigh and he said he was coming to pick her up.
Those might have been his last words.
At 12:36 a.m., one of their cousins texted, “Y’all about to turn tf up.” He never responded.
Three minutes later, Deputy Sharp pulled him over.
J’Mauri Bumpass’s death has been ruled a suicide, but attorney Allyn Sharp—like the teen’s family—is skeptical.
“I don’t believe J’Mauri shot himself, either intentionally or by accident,” she told the INDY. “Whatever happened to J’Mauri, the not-at-all transparent response and lack of investigation by the Sheriff’s Office suggests to me that at a minimum, they’re afraid of what might have happened.”
The Durham County Sheriff’s office declined to comment.
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